Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Cake (from a cake mix)

I had a box of spice cake mix in my cupboard that has been there for a while. With fall here and being in a little bit of a mood to do some simple fall baking I set out to see what I could with this cake mix. I found this simple recipe:    The cake is very moist and good.  A nice mix of spice and pumpkin flavors. 

It required the cake mix, a can of pumpkin and a few other ingredients...

I baked it in a 9x13 pan. The recipe made it into a layer cake.  I ended up baking if for about 35 minutes..

Frosted it...

The only changes I made to the recipe was to the frosting. The original recipe had 5 cups of powdered sugar, which seemed like a lot to me. I cut that down to 3 cups. I also added to the frosting 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon.

It was yummy!! My guys ate it up pretty quick..


Monday, September 28, 2015

Menu Monday!

Today is grocery shopping day. I shop once a week. I've tried shopping every other week but that seems to be a little challenging especially with fresh veggies. I serve a lot of green salads because I love fresh veggies and find it the easiest way to get our daily fresh veggie needs met. So, I shop weekly (which is why menu planning is good, I can make sure I have everything I need for the weeks meals on hand).

How often do you grocery shop?

Last week's menu worked perfectly .. which was nice. We had the ham for a couple nights, the chili for a couple nights, had 2 nights were everyone fended for themselves.. and one night of meatloaf and tonight will be night 2 of meatloaf.

When I make a meal I cook a double batch of whatever I'm cooking with the intention of the meal lasting me for 2 nights. So far it's been a good plan. I cook less often and it makes meal planning pretty simple.

As I said, tonight we are having meatloaf along with tater tots and salad. For the rest of the week here is the line up...

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches
I'm buying roast beef from the deli for these sandwiches. I'll serve some soup with them. I'm not sure if I'll do something simple like tomato soup (using the tomato soup base I canned recently) or make a pot of veggie soup. Actually veggie soup is sounding good right now.

Navy Bean and Ham Soup
I saved the ham bone from last weeks ham and put it in the freezer. I'll use this to make the soup and serve biscuits and a salad on the side.

Korean Pork
My daughter, Emily, shared this recipe with me a couple years ago. I've made it several times. Works great with pork chops or pork riblets. I plan to serve egg rolls and chow mein and salad on the side.

I've made my own egg rolls many times and they are good. They do take a bit of time. Often times, nowadays, I buy them frozen from Costco. Their egg rolls are really good.

That should cover it for the week!!


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Brown Sugar & Honey Ham Glaze

I mentioned earlier this week (in Menu Monday) about having a ham dinner. I had bought a ham at Costco. The hams I buy have a packet of dry mix for making the glaze (just add water). It is very good and tasty.

However I realized with all the freezer work I must have punctured the packet of glaze and it had fallen out. So my ham had no glaze. I searched the web for something that would work. I found a lot of recipes but I just wanted a simple glaze. So I combined a couple different recipes and this is what I came up with...

This was delish!! (I know the pic does not look like much :), but it was easy to make and yummy.

My ham was about 9lbs and I baked it 325 for about 3 hours I pulled it out of the oven...

I spooned and spread the glaze over the ham. It was a spiral cut ham and I made sure to let the glaze drizzle as much as possible between the slices as well. I returned the ham to the oven and bumped up the heat to 400. It baked for about 20 to 30 minutes and this is what it looked like...

It tasted as good as it looked!!

With fall and the holidays coming up ham is often on the menu. If you need an easy glaze give this a try!!

Brown Sugar & Honey Ham Glaze

½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
2T Dijon mustard
½ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together with a wire whip. Spoon and spread over a baked ham. Return ham to the oven (uncovered). Bake at 400 for about 20 to 30 minutes or until ham is nicely browned.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Canning Corn off the Cob

Last week it was time to harvest my corn. My corn was a bit behind others in my area. I got it planted a little late but that was ok. Up until now I was drowning in a sea of tomatoes! Ha, ha!! My son and I picked it...

Had to get a pic of my sunflowers.. they're looking so pretty right now..

Then we just sat by the goat fence and shucked it and tossed the husks to the goats. It was efficient and the goats were in heaven having all those corn husks...

I had over 100 ears of corn...

I raw packed my corn. I took about ¾ of the ears and scraped the the corn off the cob.

You can use a knife for this. I have a nifty little corn cob scraper that does a great job.

{affiliate link}

Then I filled pint size jars up with corn, covered in boiling water, put a new lid and a ring on the jars and filled up my canner. You can stack jars as I did here..

Corn is a low acid food and you must use a pressure canner to can it. I canned pint jars for 55 minutes at 10#'s of pressure. Quarts would be 75 minutes.

I ended up with 33 pints of corn off the cob and the rest of the corn that did not get canned was left for eating!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Freezer Organization

Last week I mention in my Menu Monday post about organizing my chest freezer. Chest freezers are a challenge to organize. Things get lost in the bottom and items pile up on top. I know I've tried several methods over the years. I received a comment asking me to share with pictures of my organization job.

I think the key to any method is consistency. As and example... after grocery shopping last week my son was helping me put the groceries away. He took the freezer items and put them in the freezer. Well.. he basically just dumped them in the freezer. So much of my organization plan was gone. When I realized what had happened (when I went to the freezer to retrieve something :) I spent a few minutes putting things back where they belong.

I've not always been great at the consistency part. So an annual freezer cleaning is needed. Now that I have only one freezer my determination to keep it organized and usable is very high. 

I did not purchase anything to organize. I used some sturdy cardboard boxes. This may not look all that fancy, but it does do the job and it was free!

Here is what I did....

On the very bottom of the freezer I put 2 large sturdy boxes. The box on the right has meat in it. The box on the left has frozen potatoes, veggies and cheese.

There is a little shelf to the left (the compressor and motor is under this which creates a shelf). On this I have a bag of oat groats, a bag of oats, some chicken broth and an open bag of yeast.

On the top of the bottom boxes I put a 3rd box. This box has bread products in it. I did it this way so the box would be light to lift out in order to get to the items below it. Nothing like having to dig through a bunch of heavy frozen items to reach something at the bottom. My goal was to make everything as accessible as possible in order to help me stay consistent with keeping it all organized..

When I purchased the freezer it had 2 hanging baskets. The one on the right I have juice and ice cream in it...

The one on the left my son has some of his own food items in it. This works well because he knows where to put his items and where to find them when he wants them..

Also sitting on top of the meat I put a couple bags of ice I purchased. I did not get a picture of that. The ice gets used fairly quickly and open bags are put in the freezer of our refrigerator.

Do you have any chest freezer organization methods that work well for you?


Monday, September 21, 2015

Menu Monday!

Last week I talked about organizing my chest freezer. I had a lady comment about how I did this and sharing some pics. I plan to chat about that tomorrow and share pics of my now organized freezer.

Last week was one of those weeks where the kids had their own plans a couple of nights. The pizza chili did not get made. I baked the ham last night and we have leftovers for today (Monday). I made mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and green beans to go along with this meal. The ham bone will be put in the freezer for bean and ham soup in the future.

I'm getting so ready for soups. Our weather cools down for a day or two and I start thinking about soups and chili and then it heats up again. We have a couple cool rainy days at the end of the week so I'll be making my pizza chili then.

My plan for this week will include the leftover baked ham today. 

For the rest of the week.... 

Pizza Chili
This should warm us up for those cool days! A pan of corn bread will be served along side

Italian Pizza Chicken
I shared this recipe a couple weeks ago. It was so yummy!! I also have a recipe for pizza bread I want to try out. I think that would go great with this meal and a nice green salad.

Pretty basic. I'm thinking right now that a pan of mac & cheese sounds yummy to add to the meal

And that should do it. I don't think I'll need a standby meal this week as the above menu should cover it.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tomato Soup Base for Canning

Yesterday I posted about making tomato soup from fresh tomatoes. It turned out so good! I had a bunch of tomatoes from my last picking that needed to be used up. So I thought.. why not can up the tomato soup base. When I want to use it.. I simply add the salt, sugar, baking soda, butter and milk and serve. So that is what I did.

I started with 25#'s of tomatoes. I cut off the ends and pureed them. I put them in my big 14 quart stock pot. I set it on the stove to boil and reduce...

It took about 3 hours to reduce by almost half....

Then I ran the whole batch through the blender to make it nice and smooth in texture...

I put it back in the stock pot. I added the salt and sugar and heated it back up. Then I filled a quart jar with the soup base and put a new lid and a ring on it....

And put it in the canner....

I did this with the rest of the jars....

I pressure canned this recipe. Tomatoes are borderline on having enough acid to can in a boiling water bath. Since I did not add extra acid to the recipe I decided the safest thing to do was pressure can it.

I pressure canned the batch for 20 minutes at 10lbs of pressure. The Ball Canning book had a similar recipe and that was the time they gave it, so that is what I decided to use.

I ended up with 8 quarts. I was not going to can another batch for just one more quart. I put that quart in the fridge and will serve it for lunch in the next couple days.

To use the soup base, open, heat and add remaining ingredients as posted in the recipe below.

Tomato Soup Base for Canning

25#'s tomatoes
10t salt
5T sugar

Chop, puree tomatoes. No need to peel them. Put the puree in a large stock pot. Simmer on medium until reduced by almost half. Remove from heat and let cool. Put batches of tomatoes through the blender to make them smooth. Return to stock pot. Heat and add salt and sugar. You need to do this to taste. Tomatoes are different in flavor and everyone's sense of taste and salt are different. You want it to taste slightly sweet and have enough salt to bring out the taste of the tomatoes.

Fill hot jars with hot soup base. Can in a pressure canner for 20 minutes at 10lbs of pressure (be sure to adjust for altitude).

When it is time to use the soup base open the jar and pour into a pot. Heat on the stove. Then add:

a small dash of baking soda
2T butter
¾ to 1 cup milk (depending on how creamy you desire it)

Heat and serve.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Tomato Soup from Fresh Tomatoes

Last weekend I picked another 75#'s of tomatoes. My daughter and I have already canned up 90 jars of salsa from our previous pickings and it was time to do something else with these. I gave my daughter several pounds of fresh tomatoes and we've been eating a lot of tomatoes lately. But I still had enough to play around with.

So I decided to make some tomato soup. It was delish!! I made it for lunch a few days ago. 

When I was done making this I thought that this would be a great recipe to can.   I then made a larger batch of tomato soup base and canned it.   I'll be sharing the canning version of this recipe tomorrow.

It was not difficult to make. It did take more time than opening a can of soup.. but the end results are worth the time!! :) I started with 5#'s of tomatoes. I cut them up and pureed them in my food processor...

I don't peel my tomatoes. I find that a whole heck of a lot of work, and don't find it necessary. I puree them and cook them down and the peels have never been an issue.

I put the tomatoes on the stove to cook down. I have roma tomatoes and they are not real juicy. If you use any other type you may need to let this cook down more. It took about 45 minutes to reduce by about half.

At that point I took them off the stove and used my hand blender to get the tomatoes even smoother. Then I added baking soda, salt, sugar, butter and milk. The end result was beyond delicious!!

And of course a grilled cheese sandwich was the perfect match up for a dish of tomato soup...

The recipe...

Tomato Soup from Fresh Tomatoes

5#'s fresh tomatoes
1/8 t baking soda
2t salt
1T sugar
4T butter
2 cups milk

Cut up and puree tomatoes. You do not need to peel them. Put in a stock pot and bring to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until it has reduced by about half. Remove from heat. Using a stick blender (or a regular blender) blend until smooth and no clumps of tomatoes are left.

Put back on stove and heat until warm. Add baking soda (helps to reduce acid). Add salt, sugar, butter and milk. Stir and heat (do not boil) to melt butter and it is warm enough to serve. Enjoy!!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Romans 12:13: distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Many years ago I remember reading books on practicing hospitality. I definitely did not see myself as this type of person. All the books I read made it sound to intimidating. I felt like I really had to have my act together to be hosting Bible studies in my home or inviting strangers over. Plus, I'm more of an introvert so the whole idea of hospitality was just a bit to much. I enjoy people quite a bit, but putting the word “hospitality” in the mix suddenly made it seem like a work. I felt it was something to add to a to-do list of life or that was required of me as a Christian. So right then and there I decided that this just was not a gift that the Lord had given me.

But as time went on here is what happened. We met a family at church one Sunday and invited them over to our home for dinner. They had children about our kids ages and we hit it off. Became very good friends for many years. But, in my mind, this was not hospitality, this was just having a family over from church. My husband met a man at work and got to know him, they had just moved to the area, we invited him and his family over for dinner, but again, in my mind, this was not hospitality, it was just having a family over for dinner.

As my kids grew up they made friends and for many years my house was always full of extra kids. Every weekend, afternoons during the week, summer time. As one of my older son's friends commented to me a couple months ago when he was here visiting, “your house was always the fun place to be”. But, to me, that was not hospitality, that was just what you do when you have children.

When my daughter Emily was enrolled in College Plus she informed me that she'd invited 25 College Plus students to our house for a weekend. They were having a ministry get together and would that be a problem :). But, to me, that was not hospitality, it was just helping my daughter out.

When my sister in law was going through a transition in her life, she needed a place to stay for a bit. Right away I told her, you are welcome here for as long as you need. But, to me, that was not hospitality, that was helping my family.

Several years ago a friend and I wanted to read and discuss a book together. We met at my house and would read a chapter a week and discuss the lessons from each chapter. Pretty soon another friend joined us. We did this for a while with various different books. But, to me, this was not hospitality, it was just something we did together for encouragement.

Just this summer I've had many visits from friends and family. Often times they will call me up and say, I'm driving by your area, are you up for a visit and a cup of coffee? I always say, “YES!!”.

Over the years people have come and gone from my home. I've served many meals, made a lot of coffee, and it became obvious to me that hospitality is more about being willing and open than it is a work on a to-do list. For me it has not been a “hospitality mindset”, as in, ok, I need to make sure I do 'this'. It has come naturally from just simply having an open heart, open arms and an open door. It has been all about letting the Lord take the lead (even though I had no idea that was what was happening over the years :) and simply being available to those the Lord sent my direction.

It has not been about being the perfect hostess, it has not been about having a clean enough house for company, it has not been about being a perfect Christian. It has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. I really don't believe it has anything to do with having a gift for hospitality.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's about being willing, and having the desire to extend the love of God to those He puts in life's path. After all the years I see it as God doing His work through day to day life, not something I set out and endeavored to do.

A friend once said to me, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. People that serve and extend themselves will be some of what people see and experience of God. I'm sure it has an impact in ways we don't often understand. I think of people who extended open hearts and open arms to me over the years, and they most likely did not realize the impact it has had on my life.

There really is no art to practicing hospitality, it ultimately is being willing to let God work through your life to bless and serve those around you.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Menu Monday!


As you can see above I decided to celebrate my new Menu Monday format change with a new header! :) It was time for something new..

Now on to food chat... I have 2 freezers and was wondering if I was at a point I could downsize to 1. A few years ago I had 3 freezers and was able to clean them all out and reorganize down to the 2 I now have. I gave that freezer to my daughter Hannah. I figured it was time to try again with my family size going down. I don't freeze as much food as I use to. I don't buy in the huge quantities I use to. So I tackled it and was successful! I was able to send some things that had been in there way to long to the goats (veggies). I was able to toss things that I had not marked well and had no idea what they were or how long they'd been there. A couple months ago I had also started making a concerted effort to use up food in the freezer so that had helped. Now with better organization and an ice free freezer, my food fit nicely into one freezer with room to spare.

I also made a list of everything I have in there. I mark things off the list when I use them and add to the list after I shop.

My freezer is a chest type and they can be a challenge to organize. Currently I have 2 large boxes in the bottom. I have one box for meat and the other box has cheese, frozen veggies, frozen potatoes, etc in it. I then placed a third box on top and it has french bread, loaves, bagels, hamburger buns, etc. I figured this way the third box would be light enough to lift out so I can get to the items below.

I have 2 baskets that hang in the freezer and one has juice and ice cream in it and the other has a few things my son bought for himself in it.

Hopefully this will stay easy to organize and prevent items from falling to the bottom to never be seen again! Ha, ha!!

If you have a chest freezer, how do you keep it organized?

As for the menu.. last week went.. OK.. the pulled pork I made I was hoping to last for 2 nights, but my son had some friends over and it got eaten up the first night. I needed another meal. I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the freezer and I boiled 4#'s of those and used the broth to make gravy. I divided the chicken gravy into 2 9x13 pans and topped it with biscuits and baked them in the oven. That seemed to do the trick for an extra meal. We ate this for a couple of nights..

Last week I also mentioned about being flexible in changing up a meal if needed for whatever reason. I had spaghetti on my menu. I'm working to use up my tomatoes and made a delish spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes. I had the sauce all done cooking and went to get my spaghetti noodles out to cook only to discover I was out of them. But I did have an open package of rotini noodles. Not only did this work great, but I was able to use up the open package on the shelf (and I currently have spaghetti noodles on my grocery list!)...

This week I have my meals planned out and am adding an extra pantry meal to the list just in case we have company or I just have a really hungry family that eats a meal all up in one sitting!

Baked Ham

I knew I had bought a ham a few weeks ago when it was on sale. But it had somehow fallen to the bottom of the freezer and I found it while cleaning out and organizing. The weather here looks like it will be cooling down and I figured a baked ham and some mashed potatoes would be a perfect meal. I'll serve some sort of veggies or a salad along with this. I'll save the ham bone for soup for next week.

Tater Tot Casserole

An easy stand by recipe that my family loves. I often make it in the crockpot for simplicity. I'll serve a salad to go along with this.

Pizza Chili

Pizza Chili is just a slight twist on regular chili that I came up a couple years ago. A pan of cornbread or corn muffins and a salad will make this a complete meal.

The Pantry Meal: a pantry meal is simply a meal that can be made easily from items I have on my pantry shelf. If I need a 4th meal for the week it will be tuna patties. I can serve rice or pasta with this.

Hope your meal planning is going well!!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

That Moment When You Realize.....

You have the sweetest kid ever.. Well, I always knew he was sweet and kind.. but it was another reminder of his big heart...

My son Isaac has been working since the end of March. His company had their annual company picnic. Every employee was given a very generous gift card. There were a lot of gift cards to pick from. But, this was his choice....

He brought it home and gave it to me. He is always thinking of others and this just touched my heart (and for sure, I'll be sharing it with him :).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Getting Fit in the 50's

I'm still walking!! And still making a point to get out and move every day. It has been great. I feel better than ever.

My daughter Hannah and I have been getting together weekly to walk and hike in various places with the grand kids. Our goal is to get them able to walk more and more distance. Last week we walked over 3 miles.. and they did great. We had the stroller for the baby.. he has little legs that are not ready to walk that distance.

I am so in love with walking. A friend said to me... you have to find your “soul mate” exercise. The one thing that you look forward to, not feel dread about. I have to say walking is that for me.

Walking is amazing. It is free, it is easy, it does not cost anything. It is a fantastic way to take in God's creation. It is my think time, it is my prayer time, it is my sanctuary.. I walk.. any issues in life that were bothering me 3 miles ago.. no longer seem so bad. I feel energized.

When I first started I'd walk a mile and come back and feel wiped out. Now.. I walk 3 miles or more and come home and feel like I can take on the world. Moving and doing.. it is amazing. I'm ready to deal with life and take on whatever needs to be done.

If you struggle to deal with life every day.. get up and walk.. it does not have to be far, just start moving. The benefits are beyond amazing.

Here are a few pics from a recent walk with Hannah and my grand kids...


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cilantro Chicken

This was yummy!! I posted this on last weeks “Menu Monday” and wanted to follow up with it.

It takes a bit of planning because the chicken has to marinate in the cilantro/garlic mix. I put it together one evening before bed, cooked it up the next morning. I was going to be busy in the afternoon and wanted the main part of our dinner all done. We reheated it at dinner time.

The recipe was one my daughter Hannah had tried and shared with me. You can find the original version here:

I made a few changes to it all and will share that. First off, I used chicken legs in my version because that is what I had in the freezer. Second, I baked it in the oven and not on the grill. I also used more chicken than the original recipe called for and made a bigger batch of the cilantro/garlic mixture.

Here is my version...

I used the blender to mix up the cilantro, garlic and olive oil. I reminded me a lot pesto .. only with cilantro.. :) I used a large pan to put my chicken in and then covered it with the cilantro mix, and then covered the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight...

The next day I laid out the chicken pieces in two baking dishes. One is a 9x13 the other an 11x15.. but 2 9x13 pans would work just fine. 

After baking I brushed on a layer of sweet chili sauce right as it came out of the oven...

I served it with rice and a salad.

Cilantro Garlic Chicken

4#'s chicken legs
1 bunch fresh cilantro
½ cup olive oil
10 cloves of garlic
Sweet chili sauce (approx ¼ to a ½ cup)

I put the chicken legs in a large pan (you could also divide it into gallon size zip lock bags but I did not have any on hand).

Chop the ends off the cilantro and discard. Chop up the rest and put into the blender. Add olive oil and garlic. Blend until smooth.

Sprinkle salt over the chicken legs, cover with the cilantro/garlic mix. Smoosh it around to make sure all the chicken legs are covered. Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge to marinate for 4 to 12 hours. I actually had mine in the fridge for probably 14 hours due to making it before going to bed and cooking it the next day.

When done marinating lay chicken pieces in 2 – 9 x 13 pans. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked.

Remove from oven. Brush sweet chili sauce over the top of the chicken. Allow to cool and enjoy. Can be served with rice or pasta and a fresh garden salad.

Notes: The amount of garlic is flexible. If you love garlic you can use more, if your not a big garlic fan, use less. The other thing I found out was that cleaning the baking dishes afterwards was a pain! Next time I'll be sure to line the pans with parchment paper to make clean up a lot easier.